Supreme Court may be summoned to tame EPA´s greenhouse gas agenda

Mar 9, 2012

The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) may consider appealing to the U.S. Supreme Court if a U.S. Court of Appeals in the District of Columbia rules in favor of retaining U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) greenhouse gas regulations that would hurt ranch and farm operations.

NCBA, in conjunction with the Coalition for Responsible Regulation, presented oral arguments on Feb. 29 challenging EPA’s conclusion that carbon dioxide, or “greenhouse gases,” endanger public health and the environment. They also disputed EPA’s related passenger vehicle, timing and tailoring rules that govern permit applicability at stationary sources.

“EPA’s regulations are an attempt to force greenhouse gas regulations down the throats of the American people without congressional approval,” NCBA President J.D. Alexander said. “We challenged EPA in court to take power away from the agency’s unelected bureaucrats and put it back into the hands of the American people.”

Alexander noted agriculture is an energy-intensive sector of the U.S. economy. EPA regulations designed to make gasoline and electricity more expensive directly impact farmers and ranchers, he said.

“The livestock industry works hard every day to be good stewards of the land and environment, but imposing energy taxes through EPA’s regulation of greenhouse gases will mean fewer jobs, higher food costs, and less growth and innovation,” Alexander said, adding EPA is trying to do so via the U.S. Clean Air Act. “These are regulations we simply can’t afford.”

Tamara Thies, NCBA’s chief counsel for environment and sustainability, told the Western Livestock Journal that the Coalition for Reasonable Regulation, including NCBA, first filed its petition in 2009. It normally takes more than a year for appeals of EPA rules to reach court for oral arguments, she said, adding she expects the appellate court to make a ruling in a few months.

“We are going to wait a couple of months, then, depending on the outcome, we may very well appeal to the Supreme Court. The decision has not been made, but it’s a possibility,” Thies said.

EPA has indicated it will consider regulating small sources of greenhouse gases—including farms, ranches, hospitals and schools—in 2016. “That’s right around the corner. If we are able to defeat this rule in court now, then 2016 will be a moot is sue,” Thies said.

EPA carbon dioxide regulations already have kicked in for large industrial emitters, she noted.

“When you regulate greenhouse gases, you increase the price of energy—the engine that makes this country work,” Thies said. “The economy is struggling. It’s just entirely inappropriate, especially when the science is as uncertain as it is.”

The thrust of NCBA’s appeal is that EPA does not have the science to back its contention that carbon dioxide increases global warming and that the agency justified that theory based on fraudulent European research, the attorney said.

“According to the Administrative Procedure Act, the EPA cannot delegate its authority to a foreign entity,” Thies said. “It’s inappropriate in the U.S. It should never have been done. They did it anyway. … We do not know if humans are causing climate change or not. Science does not necessarily say we are. The EPA unfortunately is making decisions based on an activist agenda instead of science. We need to fight back against it.”

Daniel Simmons of the Institute for Energy Research said Congress never intended for EPA to regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act. If so, that would include regulating 17,000 farms, he said.

“They were asking the court to allow them to implement the parts of the act they want and avoid the parts they know will cause political upheaval from sea to shining sea, proof that their decision to grant themselves more governmental powers was a political one,” Simmons said.

The American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009, or “Cap and Trade Bill,” also would have established an emissions trading plan similar to the European Union Emission Trading Scheme. It was approved in the U.S. House, but died in the U.S. Senate.

Under the measure, the government would have set a limit on the total amount of greenhouse gases that could be emitted nationally. Companies would then buy or sell permits to emit the gases, primarily carbon dioxide.

“Congress said no. The American people don’t want it. It was defeated in Congress, which represents the American people,” Thies said.

Rep. Mike Simpson, R-ID, who chairs the House Interior and Environment Appropriations Subcommittee that oversees EPA funding, supports H.R. 2997, a bill that would ensure EPA does not impose regulations intended to clean up hazardous waste sites on livestock operations.

“The Superfund law was never intended to regulate manure and other animal emissions as a toxic or hazardous substance. It defies common sense to presume that dairy and other producers who use manure as fertilizer should be regulated the same way as a chemical plant or mining operation,” Simpson said.

H.R. 2997 is now under consideration by the House Energy and Commerce Committee and House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee, according to Nikki Watts, Simpson’s communications director.

Last September, Simpson voted in favor of the Transparency in Regulatory Analysis of Impacts on the Nation Act, which passed the House 249-169, but has not been taken up by the Senate. It calls for a time out from some of the EPA’s “most egregious” regulatory proposals, Simpson said.

“Like many Idahoans, I am deeply concerned that the EPA has drastically expanded its regulatory authority,” he said. “By pumping out new regulations every week, the Obama administration is using the EPA to force on the American people an extreme environmental agenda that is hurting our fragile economy.” — Mark Mendiola, WLJ correspondent